It's humanity’s closest experience to bird flight. Hang gliding pilots ride prone in midair, just a simple metal frame and fabric wing keeping them afloat. They may be towed aloft, but can even launch by foot off a high point.
As thrilling as the sport may be, preparing for a safe flight requires thorough training, as pilots must overcome their natural instinct to pull back at the feeling of nothing underfoot. To meet this training need, Thomas Low and Cloudbase Game Labs have just released Freeflight Experience, a new VR hang gliding flight simulator built with Cesium for Unreal.
Freeflight Experience allows users to take hang gliding flights in VR, with a realistic world of high resolution global imagery and Cesium World Terrain streamed from Cesium ion. Users can travel anywhere in the world and set the time and date for a simulated flight, controlling the sun position and length of the day.
Freeflight Experience is more than just a realistic setting, though. The simulation includes realistic physics that models not only glider aerodynamics, but also atmospheric physics and the formation of thermals and other lift sources. The atmospheric model in Freeflight Experience is based on historical sounding measurements from any day and location.
In the simulator, users will find windsocks that respond to the passage of thermals to help them correctly time a launch. There are also daily thermal cycles, where ground heating begins at sunrise, builds during the day, and mellows in the late afternoon.
In recent decades, the hang gliding sport has been somewhat in decline as potential new participants have turned to paragliding and other activities. To fill the training gap of an aging community, Freeflight Experience is designed to supplement the training of new pilots and to allow experienced pilots to hone their skills or maintain those skills when practicing isn’t possible due to seasonal weather.
As beautiful and fun as the Freeflight Experience is, the ultimate goal of the app is to inspire players to get out of the game and pursue the sport in real life as they experience the beauty, challenges, and thrills of the original extreme sport.
To get started building your own game experience with real world data, check out our Cesium for Unreal tutorials.